Bob Woodward — one half of Woodward and Bernstein and one of America’s most historic and respected journalists — came in for some unusually harsh criticism this week after his claim that a White House advisor threatened him over a statement that the Obama administration was “moving the goalposts” in regards to sequestration.
The Bob Woodward controversy erupted after Politico covered the out-of-context assertion made by Woodward about the then-unnamed White House flak and a seemingly ominous warning the Watergate scandal breaking journalist would “regret” making his statements.
The Huffington Post summed up the Bob Woodward White House threat drama thusly:
“Earlier today, Woodward decided to go on cable television and insist that President Barack Obama could easily thwart the coming sequestration devastation by simply overriding the commonly held principles of constitutional governance and just flat-out ignore a law that Congress passed and which he signed. Tonight, that little bit of derangement is followed up by a “Behind The Curtain” scooplet from Politico, revealing that an ‘Obama aide’ totally yelled at him that one time, subsequently re-contacted Woodward to apologize, whereupon Woodward miscontrued that apology into some sort of weird Gangland fantasia.”
And, in a piece over on Slate titled “Bob Woodward Trolls The World,” the online mag adds:
“Republicans have been trying tio replace it with a package of cuts targeted at income support programs for the poor. Obama’s been trying to replace it with a mixture of spending cuts and tax hikes … it really intensified Wednesday morning when Woodward went on Morning Joe to suggest it’s crazy of Obama to be applying the law as written to the military, instead of simply ignoring it.”
The site adds:
“Things moved into the absurd last night when it was revealed that National Economic Council director Gene Sperling had concluded an email disagreement with Woodward with the observation that in Sperling’s view Woodward would come to regret clinging so tenaciously to an untenable position.”
The relevance of Bob Woodward — whose name is often brought up in lamentations over the death of American journalism — to the firestorm is kind of funny. It seems the controversy is one borne of new media tendencies to grab on to a controversial soundbite and run with it rather than dig deeper, the same sort of digging deeper done by Woodward in the 70s that culminated in the resignation of Richard Nixon.
You can read the full email exchange between Woodward and White House advisor Glen Sperling over on Politico.
Do you think Sperling meant to threaten Woodward, or merely challenge his position?